For more than 25 years, Club Marcella was a tentpole in the local gay community. A welcoming place where people could come to dance and revel in community traditions. For many people, gay and non-gay alike, Club Marcella served as their first in-the-flesh exposure to gay culture.
Recently, the club was forced to close its doors due to a dispute with the building owners. A new version of the club has reopened, but with less of a gay focus, and more of an inclusive party vibe.
While the new Marcella’s will still hold drag shows on Friday nights, owner Joe Marcella says the new club is meant to have a broader appeal. Having opened clubs in Buffalo, Rochester and Miami, Marcella says his new club is the culmination of all the things he’s learned over the years.
“Buffalo needs a great space where you can let your hair down and go dance,” he says. “It’s like a big city night club. Everybody has to come in at least once and experience it. It’s a beautiful place. I think it’s one of the most beautiful clubs I’ve created to date.”
For many years, gay-oriented bars were essential for communities of non-heterosexual people. The fact that homosexual acts and gay bars were illegal until the middle of the 20th century made it hard for people in these communities to socialize and date. But now, gay people aren’t relegated to underground clubs and secret meet-ups. As a result, many gay clubs have closed.
Maybe the biggest nail in the gay bar coffin so far has been dating apps like Gindr. Gay people no longer need to go to a physical space to find a date. All it takes is a few taps and swipes.
“Nobody goes out anymore,” Marcella says, referring to the modern gay dating scene. “So, you can’t label your club as ‘just gay’ anymore because its not gonna work. You have to change with the times.
The new club Marcella still reps gay culture. But that isn’t the main focus. On a recent Friday night, hanging LED lights pulsated and lasers scanned the club as dance music rumbled. In the Main room, a DJ spun big hits from Rihanna, Lady Gaga and others. In the House room, there was more of a focus on the popular genre of rave music.
This club is going to have massive appeal, and while that may sound like a good thing, it raises a whole new set of problems.
“In this business, you’re damned if you’re slow, damned if you’re too busy,” Marcella says. “Because if you put 1,000 people in a nightclub, there’s always going to be one or two people who are going to start trouble.”
Expect security for the new Club Marcella to be tight, with pat-downs and metal detectors. Unapologetically, Marcella compares it to going through airport security.
“It takes a lot to put a party together, and it takes – can I say? – one asshole to disrupt it,” he says. “You have to be very careful, and this is why we keep tight security. If you get offended by that, then you don’t need to come to the club.”
While underground DJs might make an occasional appearance, don’t expect anything too outside-the-box.
“I’m open to experimenting a bit with the music, but you gotta give people what they want to hear,” Marcella says. “Am I gonna bring in big DJs? Absolutely. Am I gonna bring in live acts? Absolutely. But we’re also going to focus on having private events like Christmas parties, business parties, bachelorette parties and VIP private events.”
Essentially, something for everyone.
Hours at time of publishing (Subject to change): Thursday 9 p.m. – 4 a.m., Friday 9:30 p.m. – 4 a.m., Saturday 10 p.m. – 4 a.m., Sunday to Wednesday CLOSED
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